As someone immersed in Seth’s philosophy as a way of life, I can’t help but interpret current events through this lens. Frequently, something I see or hear makes me think, “Seth said something about that.” Then, when I dig deeper, I find that indeed there is a great deal Seth said about that particular topic. When I consider how long ago his words were written, it often amazes me how prescient they were, especially when they can be applied precisely to something happening now or when they foretold of scientific discoveries that came much later into public awareness.
Today I want to talk about Seth’s thoughts on cooperation versus competition. A couple of things going on in the world got me thinking about this topic.
First, the Summer Olympics in Rio just wrapped up. Like anyone else, I can get excited and patriotic when the medal winners are from my own country. But I also feel bad for all the athletes who compete but don’t win a medal, because they have dedicated much of their lives to athletic excellence and have accomplished great things, yet sometimes, in just minutes, their dreams are dashed.
Although many things are good in moderation, we often take them too far. It’s part of the “more of a good thing must be better” school of thought that is often regarded as an American invention. So instead of celebrating all of the talent on exhibit at the Olympics, a certain segment of people will boo athletes from other countries. Certain governments will put their talented athletes at risk with doping, just to win. And certain officials will get selfishly involved in corrupt activities, just for the big money.
A different kind of competition is going on closer to home and also on my mind lately. It is the U.S. Presidential campaign, which was recently on display, in all its gross and glorious aspects, during the Republican and Democratic conventions. Beyond the polarizing campaign rhetoric and media coverage throughout, I suspect the same animosity will carry right through to the actual governing at congressional, state, and local levels. This is competition at its most discouraging and damaging.
I’ve been thinking about cooperation recently as well. Just this week I enjoyed a Ted Talk by Suzanne Simard called “How Trees Talk to Each Other, ” which was based on decades-long research on communication that exists among trees and their environment The talk was fantastic and uplifting. You can watch it here: https://www.ted.com/talks/suzanne_simard_how_trees_talk_to_each_other
Simard’s presentation called to mind some of Seth’s comments so I did a little research. I found a specific reference to trees in which Seth said, “One tree in a forest knows of the entire environment and its relationship in it. Its tree-ness can merge with soil-ness, for example.” (The “Unknown” Reality, Volume 1, Amber-Allen, 1977/1996, p. 119) But this comment occurs within a broader explanation about how communication and cooperation carry on “beneath” or “behind” the reality we are aware of.
Seth asserts that we would not exist at all if not for cooperation. The cells of our bodies cooperate to keep us alive and to heal us when necessary. Civilizations and social institutions are all based on cooperation. And of course there are limitless examples of complex and interdependent systems within nature.
The living world consists of a spontaneous cooperation that exists between the smallest and the highest, the greatest and the lowly, between the atoms and the molecules and the conscious, reasoning mind. (The Nature of Personal Reality, Amber-Allen, 1974/1994, p. 3)
Why don’t we realize this? Well, some people do. And some believe it about nature, but they forget that nature includes human beings.
It has been fashionable in the past to believe that each species was oriented selfishly toward its own survival. Each was seen in competition with all other species. In that framework cooperation was simply a by-product of a primary drive toward survival. One species might use another, for instance. Species were thought to change, and ‘mutants’ [mutations] form, because of a previous alteration in the environment, to which any given species had to adjust or disappear. The motivating power was always projected outside. (The Unknown Reality, Volume 2, pp. 286-287)
Of course, this is a description of Darwinism. And, today, we have taken some of the concepts attributed to Darwin and applied them to other disciplines such as business, finance, sports, healthcare, education, and others. However, Seth argues, this interpretation of the world as inherently competitive is incorrect.
Today, there are many scholars who say that Darwin’s observations were misunderstood and skewed by prevailing attitudes at the time. You can read more here: http://proutglobe.org/2012/10/is-human-nature-competitive-or-cooperative/ and here: http://www.scientificamerican.com/article/kindness-emotions-psychology/
Were humans ever aware of the inner, primal connection that Seth speaks of? If so, how and why did we lose that awareness?
Find out in Part 2